The Wery Wall - Lancaster
This 4th Century mass of mortared stonework was all that was visible for many years of Roman Lancaster until 1973. It is all that remains of what became known as the Wery Wall. Built around A.D.340, sections of the forts walls could be seen by earlier antiquaries. It is believed the name 'Wery Wall' is derived from the Anglo-Saxon word 'werian', meaning 'to defend' a 'Defensive' Wall. Weather beaten as time past the old walls would have afforded shelter to man and creature years after Romes central authority had melted away. The once proud walls of Caesars rule fell into ruins, hastened by stone robbers. In times past the Wery Wall was still extensive and was reported on by contemporaries, how this Roman fort wall, "did protrude because of erosion", its mighty stones hanging precariously over the heads of all and sundry who risked to pass under, beast and cart alike, on a particular Lancastrian street! The remains of the Wery Wall we see today, constitute the core of an external bastion (probable artillery mounting) which stood at the north angle of this final Roman Fort to be built on Lancaster's Castle Hill. It is said this Roman bastion was polygonal in shape, which I presume was established during the Wery Wall archaeological excavation of 1973. In the foreground can be seen a small part of the Roman bath house which was discovered by the 'Rescue' archaeology dig just prior to the construction of the office buildings of Mitre House and the proverbial car park in 1973-4. This bath-house was not for the use of the great much washed (soldiers & plebeian classes) but could have been part of a Mansio (Hotel) or a private courtyard-house, built presumably to house a significant Roman official. His bathing facilities would have been available to visiting guests of officialdom and pleasure, and no doubt much lucrative back scratching [scraping] took place. This bath-house complex was destroyed in the 4th century to make way for a new fort, its walls ploughing through the structure, and indeed cut a substantial ditch through the bath-house to facilitate a defensive ditch in front of the fort wall at this section. The new fort was not playing card shape like earlier Roman Forts, but as stated, had external bastions. The late Roman Empire was marching a road that would lead to its western end in the 5th Century. Britannia like other parts of the Empire were on a back foot, in Britain's case and northern Gaul, under siege from 'Barbarian' Saxon pirates, raiders and settlers. This political, military situation was reflected in the defensive architecture of some later Roman forts, known as forts of the 'Saxon Shore' as this final Roman Fort at Lancaster. Today, the River Lune is not far from the Wery Wall, but in the days when the fort was occupied by the Romans, the river was even closer, being just below the forts north-eastern wall, where one can see the modern day apartments in the background of this photo. Indeed I have no doubt Roman soldiers would cast a line to fish from the parapet of the Wery Wall to catch their supper! Whilst the old Empire slowly sank into political treacle and intrigue with the march of time.